Yesterday I unfollowed a whole host of “#p2” tweeters. For those unfamiliar to the “#p2” concept on Twitter, allow me to briefly explain. The “#p2” hashtag is used by progressive, liberal minded/leaning, lefties to denote a tweet espousing political and social beliefs related to such positions.
As a woman of highly liberal and left leaning politics and social concepts, I was an ardent follower of many members of this Twitter community. These are people who believe in the same style of politics, the same social obligations and policies that I believe in. Following them, conversing with them, debating with them is one of the main reasons I was drawn to Twitter in the first place and the reason I have stayed on Twitter for nearly a year.
But I have noticed that in the last few months the tone, method of communicating one’s point and debate styles have changed. Once open minds now seem closed to opinions other than their own. Tweets between tweeters have been filled with nitpicking, backbiting, brazenly rude and personal attacks. Rather than foster open debates about the Left, Democratic Party, and President Obama, his administration, and policy decisions, “#p2” has fractured. Now splintered into several camps, each with their own de facto leader and list of persons who the group must be unanimously opposed to, civility, it seems, is gone. Rather than fostering an environment of: “We can all support a common aim whilst being critical of that goal and the means by which we achieve it,” “#p2” has become a land of “with us or against us.” When did the national left become the flag bearers of post-9/11 Bush doctrine? When did we buy into the “if you don’t agree with me 100% you’re the enemy”?
I support President Obama. I supported him in 2008, I voted for him, and I have in the time since then, been an ardent fan and believer in the progress and change brought about by his administration. But what is missing from “#p2,” what has become a prickly point of contention is whether or not one can be a supporter of Obama whilst being critical of him. Since the spring this has led to numerous eruptions within Twitter-land. While I understand the sentiment by some Obama supporters that many have turned on him at the first sight of something they disagree with (and certainly the “primary Obama” mess was just stupid), support for Obama can’t be so unwavering that it comes without critical examination.
Is Obama our savior, here to deliver us ponies and rainbows? Hardly. But support of a party, a candidate, an administration has to be critical in order to be effective, otherwise we begin down a Stalinist slippery slope towards zero political dissension. Someone voicing concern or consternation over an Obama decision, or lack of one, isn’t a sign that the party is falling apart and the GOP is going to take over the world. It’s a sign that members of our electorate care enough not to follow blindly, not to fall lockstep behind the loudest or most obnoxious voice. Obama isn’t infallible. His administration isn’t infallible. The Left isn’t infallible. Criticism doesn’t expose infallibility to the sharp knife of a take over. No. Criticism fosters analysis. Criticism asks all participants to constantly strive for better.
I can be critical of Obama without being anti-Obama. I don’t vote based on what someone says on Twitter, so why would I attack someone on Twitter simply because he or she is disliked by members of “#p2”? I thought the Left was better than this. I thought we were better than the cheap-shot taking, chew-up-and-spit-out-anyone-with-a-different-opinion Right. Clearly I was wrong.